Fitness Myths

Greek Gods, urban legends, fables and superheroes maintain their posts as literary monoliths. Whether one regards them as mystery, moral or myth, they are quite indubitably, a manner of objectification: for our pleasure and entertainment, in addition to something from which we learn. While the stories possess at their core a thread bearing resemblance to our real-life tapestry, we are typically keenly aware they are, in actual fact, stories.

A corner of literature that has no place for such entertainment is nonfiction, specifically in the health domain, yet daily clickbait lures us in, its non-research-based web content promising a quick fix, faster weight loss, a better physique but more realistically, a well of empty promises.

Alarmingly, fitness myths exist disguised as genuine certainty, manipulating data from studies and utilizing a modicum of truth to connect unrelated points. Posing an even greater risks is not the acceptance of some purported evidence by the general public, but belief by individuals in the medical community: “The promulgation of unsupported beliefs may yield poorly informed policy decisions, inaccurate clinical and public health recommendations, and an unproductive allocation of research resources and may divert attention away from useful, evidence-based information.” [1]

Some current myths in circulation include:

MYTH: You should stretch before exercising.

WHY IT IS INACCURATE: Muscles need to warm up first. Stretching cold muscles might do absolutely nothing for you, or it might strain unready (unwilling) muscles and tendons.

WHAT IS TRUE: Stretching warm muscles, after a workout, can serve to benefit you – OR – you can begin with dynamic stretches.

MYTH: You need Gatorade if you’ve worked out. Also, that protein shake.

WHY IT IS INACCURATE: There are simply too many variables. First, Gatorade was developed for college athletes enduring hours-long sessions in Florida heat. Second, while it is relatively true that some electrolytes are expelled through sweat during rigorous exercise, workouts lasting less than one hour are unlikely to deplete these stores or glycogen stores to the extent that a patented drink is needed. Thirdly, intensity and frequency are as important as the general health of the individual: if you have one running workout with several days or even weeks between, your body probably doesn’t need what will amount to mostly added calories. Finally – a word about those shakes your gym offers: it’s a money and calorie trap. Unless you are training professionally and working out for hours, your typical diet should be adequate. If it’s not, there’s a better way to replenish your stores and keep you healthy that do not include highly processed powders.

WHAT IS TRUE: Ultra-athletes, marathoners, triathletes and elite competitors can benefit from supplements like Gatorade, protein shakes, gels, etc.

MYTH: In order to get in shape I have to do something “extreme” like CrossFit.

WHY IT IS INACCURATE: Firstly, CrossFit is user-specific: if you make it extreme (and, quite consequently, dangerous), then it will be. Secondly, CrossFit is <gasp!> circuit training and hardly new or unique – just branded for exposure and appeal. Thirdly, provided you find something motivating that you will commit to on a regular basis, something that encourages you to move but also pushes you and challenges you, you’re on a great path.

WHAT IS TRUE: Exercise is individual: whether it is something like CrossFit, or aerobics, or running or evening walking, you can get in “shape” whatever that means to you.

MYTH: Obesity is always genetic: you cannot change your predisposed condition.

WHY IT IS INACCURATE: “With a very good reason, obesity is said to be a complex and heterogeneous trait. Its genetics are extremely cumbersome, its environmental etiology multifaceted, and the interactions of these, mediated in part by the epigenetics, are enormously complicated. Further, the consequences of obesity vary, sometimes following and sometimes dissociating from the degree of overweight. A proportion of obese individuals even remain free of metabolical complications. This phenomenon, too, may be genetic, environmental, epigenetic, or all of the three.” [2]

WHAT IS TRUE: Both nature and nurture – genetics and environmental conditions – play a role in weight control. While there are some genetic conditions, or inherent medical conditions, that complicate whether or not a person can maintain a healthy weight, diet and exercise are positioned closer to the epicenter of that argument. Conversely, some individuals have genetic markers that put them at risk for obesity; thus, certain training exercises – specifically weight-bearing or strength training – may cause weight gain. Studies concerning this trait often cited diet as a key contributor to weight gain over the type of exercise, but noted that other forms of exercise might yield weight loss effects. (http://www.livescience.com/50680-obesity-genes-weak-exercise-benefit.html).

More on Myths:

Exercise Myths: http://www.bottomlinepublications.com/component/mtree/article/diet-a-exercise/4-dangerous-fitness-myths

Debunked Myths: http://lifehacker.com/5895140/10-stubborn-exercise-myths-that-wont-die-debunked-by-science

Gatorade Study: http://www.jscholaronline.org/articles/JFN/JFN%20101.pdf

Effects of Protein Shakes: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/disadvantages-protein-shakes-7305.html

Smart Fitness: http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/practice-smart-fitness-10-common-myths-about-working-out-should-be-laid-rest-317394

CrossFit Myths Debunked:

http://www.livestrong.com/slideshow/1010731-10-crossfit-myths-debunked/

The Genetics of Obesity: http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/812/bok%253A978-1-4614-8642-8.pdf?originUrl=http%3A%2F%2Flink.springer.com%2Fbook%2F10.1007%2F978-1-4614-8642-8&token2=exp=1439312428~acl=%2Fstatic%2Fpdf%2F812%2Fbok%25253A978-1-4614-8642-8.pdf%3ForiginUrl%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Flink.springer.com%252Fbook%252F10.1007%252F978-1-4614-8642-8*~hmac=5a1acbe29d9dfc3d08bb88b8afdd7c06df0397436baa40bb316805ff0f0eb394

[1] Krista Casazza, Ph.D., R.D., Kevin R. Fontaine, Ph.D., Arne Astrup, M.D., Ph.D., Leann L. Birch, Ph.D., Andrew W. Brown, Ph.D., Michelle M. Bohan Brown, Ph.D., Nefertiti Durant, M.D., M.P.H., Gareth Dutton, Ph.D., E. Michael Foster, Ph.D., Steven B. Heymsfield, M.D., Kerry McIver, M.S., Tapan Mehta, M.S., Nir Menachemi, Ph.D., P.K. Newby, Sc.D., M.P.H., Russell Pate, Ph.D., Barbara J. Rolls, Ph.D., Bisakha Sen, Ph.D., Daniel L. Smith, Jr., Ph.D., Diana M. Thomas, Ph.D., and David B. Allison, Ph.D.. Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity. N Engl J Med 2013; 368:446-454. January 31, 2013. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1208051

[2] Kirsi H. Pietiläinen MD, PhD, MSc in Nutrition. Genetics and Epigenetics: Myths or Facts?

Date: 08 Oct 2013.

Alternative Fitness

Due to its brand as a requisite health practice – a means of wellness and aesthetics – exercise presides victorious among features of the fitness spectrum. Nutrition, mental well-being and complementary medicine are included along the same scale; however, what we have learned and read about exercise guides us toward seeking “fitness” through movement, with strong reason.

Exercise benefits span the aggregate of our comprehensive fitness: habitual exercise is shown to minimize depressive symptoms [1]; combat diabetes and obesity before and during pregnancy [2]; improve quality of life as well as cardiovascular function [3]; and have a positive impact on aging [4]. While the frequency, intensity and duration of exercise varies on an individual basis, most experts would agree that all humans were designed to move and some type of daily physical activity is beneficial. Some more information on this can be found here:

The type of exercise one performs can depend on several corporal and preference factors: some individuals thrive on running long distances, while others’ needs are met with micro workouts. Some individuals love lifting heavy and loathe cardiovascular workouts, while others are happiest walking or jogging without throwing a glance toward a dumbbell or Nautilus. Group dynamics might prove most inspiring to others still, with social aspects confetti’d into aerobics, dance or martial arts.

Alternative Fitness (AF) is not specifically new, but a younger description of some of the opportunities we have to exercise, offering a different perspective on how we define movement related to health. Yoga and Pilates are included in AF, as are fitness pursuits such as Pole Dancing, Spinning, Rowing, TRX, aerial arts and many more. While the concept resides in innovation through unique and fun challenges, these “anti-gym” workouts are still very much workouts, when taught and performed correctly, and they typically occur in a studio or outdoors. Costs vary considerably, so while these might prove exceptionally motivating for their appeal, walking and running are {usually} free. Regardless, given the aforementioned accurate performance statement, AF appears beneficial to one’s health.

More on Alternative Fitness:

[1] Mats Hallgren, Martin Kraepelien, Agneta Öjehagen, Nils Lindefors, Zangin Zeebari, Viktor Kaldo, Yvonne Forsell. The British Journal of Psychiatry Jun 2015, DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.114.160101

[2] Exercise Before and During Pregnancy Prevents the Deleterious Effects of Maternal High-Fat Feeding on Metabolic Health of Male Offspring

Kristin I. Stanford1,2; Min-Young Lee1,2; Kristen M. Getchell1,; Kawai So1; Michael F. Hirshman1; and Laurie J. Goodyear1,2

[3] Effects of exercise training on different quality of life dimensions in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction: the Ex-DHF-P trial

Kathleen Nolte1; Christoph Herrmann-Lingen2,3; Rolf Wachter1,3; Götz Gelbrich4; Hans-Dirk Düngen5; André Duvinage6; Nadine Hoischen1; Karima von Oehsen1,2; Silja Schwarz7; Gerd Hasenfuss1,3; Martin Halle7,8; Burkert Pieske9,*; Frank Edelmann1,3,*

[4] Active and healthy ageing: The benefits of physical activity and exercise. Sport Health; Volume 33 Issue 1 (May 2015); van Uffelen, Jannique1